Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Farewell Margaret Thatcher

I for one will not be in deep mourning over this week's death of Margaret Thatcher.  Of course her death is a sad event for her family and friends and they are entitled to their grief.  As for the rest of us, the grieving began much earlier, as the results of her policies began to bite.

One thing you can say in Thatcher's favour is that she never hid her intentions.  Our current crop of tories tend to hide their light under a bushel, pretending to be moderate and compassionate and then implementing hardline policies when they get elected.  Thatcher was always up front - pro-free enterprise, anti-welfare, anti-union.  She said she would privatise services and she did.  She said she would reduce the power of trade unions, and she did.  She said she would resist communism, and she did.

If you think those are all good things, then she will be your heroine and you will be in mourning right now.  I don't, and I'm not.  Once Thatcher had won a bloody and costly battle with the mining union, helped Murdoch lock out his printing staff and changed the laws to make striking difficult, she moved on to abolishing the minimum wage.  As a result, the lowest paid workers can now be paid whatever their employers choose.  Employment is no longer a route out of poverty, and inequality has continued to increase across the UK despite a long period of full employment.

As for privatisation, our current crop of committed privatisers in Australia should take note.  Once you have sold the assets, you can never get them back.  The private sector doesn't want the assets that are a continual drain, they only want the ones that they can make money out of.  So you either pay them to run the loss-making assets out of the public purse - and you soon find they have you over a barrel because they own the infrastructure - or run them yourself.  As for the profitable ones, instead of the profits entering the public purse and being used for the public good, they enter the pockets of private entrepreneurs, who avoid paying tax so you get nothing.  You may think it will balance the books, but look at Britain's government now!

Even in foreign affairs, where opposing Soviet totalitarianism sounds like a great thing, Thatcher and her good mate Ronald Reagan did so by promoting their own tame totalitarian regimes.  Pinochet in Chile, who retained his friendship with Thatcher long after she left power.  Similar dictators in just about every other South American country, often installed after the violent overthrow of elected socialist regimes.  She even propped up the South African apartheid regime and described Nelson Mandela as a terrorist.  She was not a lover of freedom, she was just a lover of capitalism.

If you like the brutality of a dog eat dog world where, as as the lady herself said, there is no such thing as society, only individuals, you will mourn her passing.  If like me you think ordinary people deserve better, you might just pass.


Russell Harden said...

I agree with your comments about privatisation.

Russell Harden said...

google reqires quite a hoopla to set up just to leave a comment or 2. At the same time I thought the movie "The Iron Lady" was interesting in the insight it gave into her and the times. Economically the north of England was gutted during her reign and I don't know if it has recovered. Not much call for marginal coal mines these days. How do post industrial societies continue to remain viable?

Jon Eastgate said...

Thanks for going through all the palaver Russell. I never watched Iron Lady as I didn't think I could stand seeing such a awful woman lionised. But the post-industrial question is an interesting one. Industry is now carried out in poor countries where workers are paid a pittance, with the capital coming from rich countries and filtering from there to a service economy. So there's a real sense in which our current affluence is paid for by others' poverty.